Intel CEO: Big shift to mobile

Paul Otellini says the chipmaker is redirecting its focus to low-power and small devices like smartphones, Netbooks, and tablets.

SANTA CLARA, Calif.--CEO Paul Otellini said today that Intel is embarking on a big shift in focus, moving its center of gravity to the most power-efficient devices.

Intel executive VP David Perlmutter showed off a 7-inch 'reference design' tablet the company is showing to customers.
Intel executive VP David Perlmutter showed off a 7-inch 'reference design' tablet the company is showing to customers. Brooke Crothers

Otellini said that Intel, long the heavyweight in processors for PCs, will move its "center" from the power range--measured in wattage--of mainstream laptops to small mobile devices like ultraportable laptops, smartphones , and tablets, as well as devices such as smart TVs. Otellini was speaking at the Intel investor meeting at the company's headquarters here.

"We're shifting from 35-watt to 15-watt...the center is increasingly about ultramobility," said Otellini. "Every device has to be always on and always connected," he said. Today, a device with a 15-watt processor is typically an ultrathin laptop like the MacBook Air.

Related links
• Intel working on new Atom chip architecture
• Intel smartphones are on the way--again
• Intel's MeeGo is a no-go for phones

On the power efficiency front, as CNET reported earlier , Intel is developing a 22-nanometer "Silvermont" Atom chip architecture that will be followed by a 14-nanometer design dubbed "Airmont."

He also addressed tablets--a hot topic. "We're on track for 35 designs [tablets]...Android, [Intel's] MeeGo ," he said. "The tablet race is nowhere near finished. It's not just about tablets but about convertibles [that is, notebook-tablet hybrids]. There's going to be a lot of experimentation [over the next few years]."

He had less to say about smartphones. "No big announcement from Intel on smartphones today," he said. "Phones in first part of next year...an area of intense focus for us." Those phones will be based Intel's "Medfield" Atom processor.

One industry source familiar with Intel's smart phone plans said he had expected Intel to make a smartphone announcement and that the lack of any near-term specifics was "a disappointment."

Otellini added that Intel is shopping the Nokia smartphone "reference design"--a prototype that Intel uses as a vehicle for new chips--to several customers, after its relationship with the handset maker fell apart because of Nokia's newly formed partnership with Microsoft.

Intel Executive Vice President David "Dadi" Perlmutter showed two new reference designs. One was a smartphone, the other a 7-inch tablet. Both devices that Perlmutter showed were thin. Though exact dimensions were not disclosed, they were both as thin as the thinnest smartphones and tablets currently on the market.

The challenge for Intel is to get these slick designs converted into real products that consumers want and buy.

About the author

Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.

 

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